It turns out that my recent post Critical Thinking – Where to start?, with its list of 10 or so good books on critical thinking, has generated far more hits than any other entry on this humble blog. Many of those came from Gary Curtis’ blog on his excellent Fallacy Files site, where the list is described as “a list of books for improving critical thinking skills”.
Trouble is, if you really want to improve your critical thinking skills, the list of books isn’t going to do much for you. Skills only improve through practice, which means engaging in critical thinking activities and working on your performance. In this regard, critical thinking is just like any other skill. You’d never get better at tennis just by reading books about it.
So, where would you start practicing critical thinking? Some of the books on the list have exercises, and they might be worth doing. But if you want to
- get going right away
- with something that is free, and
- proven to have real benefits,
then a good place to start is the Austhink argument mapping tutorials – though you would need to actually do the exercises.
Argument mapping is certainly not the whole story about critical thinking, and I’d recommend that you do other things as well, such as read some of the books on the list. But practicing argument mapping builds your core reasoning and argument skills, and these are central to critical thinking.